E-BIKE TECH CORNER

To carbon or not to carbon?

CARBON OR ALUMINUM?

Q: Many of my friends have e-mountain bikes, and some have the latest top-of-the-line carbon bikes. I watched your YouTube video on the new Yeti 160e, and it looks like a good option. Technically, I could afford the $11,000 price, but if I can avoid spending that much money and get something relatively cheaper, I wouldn’t mind saving a bit of cash. Are carbon frames really that much better, or is there something I’m missing?

A: This is a mixed-bag question, and there can be many factors involved in the price, but the carbon frame alone is not it. Those $11,000 rigs are expensive due to them being spec’d with a litany of high-end components (carbon wheels, electronic shifting, dropper posts), all of which are nice to have but far from necessary. There are plenty of alloy options out there that offer some exceptional value—Yamaha, Husqvarna, Bulls and Rocky Mountain to name a few. The question should be, what are you really aiming to get in a bike? If it’s the best price for the best handling and performance, the brands we mentioned, as well as a plenty of others, have plenty of models to choose from.  

The Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay Carbon 70 features a carbon fiber frame.

It’s true that many of the top-performing e-mountain bikes out there are relying on carbon frames to maintain the high-end look, feel and price. And yes, the process to make a quality carbon frame is more involved and costlier than aluminum. While carbon frames can be more compliant, the trait becomes less important on a full-suspension bike. 

The other question to consider is, what kind of riding do you do? The more cost-effective (non-carbon) route is definitely an acceptable option for the majority of riders. Remember, we’re talking e-bikes here, so no matter any added weight in the frame, unlike non-assist bikes, the impact is lessened due to the pedal assist. And honestly, our test riders often come away amazed at the performance of the less expensive bikes out there. As for the Yeti, it’s among the best-handling bikes we’ve tested, and if you can afford it, you’ll likely come away as impressed as we were.

TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR NEW CONVERSION KIT

Q: I recently purchased a Bafang mid-drive kit for my Specialized Rockhopper and have everything connected as instructed. Everything looks good, my battery is secured to the bike really well, and mechanically everything is proper. That’s all fine, except it will not give power to the real wheel. The system powers up, but it won’t give any assist. This is pretty frustrating considering I just dropped a good amount of money to make this work. Any suggestions?

A: This question isn’t that uncommon, and the majority of the time it’s a simple yet difficult-to-find problem. We recently were in the local e-bike shop, and they were also having a problem getting power to the rear wheel. It ended up being that the customer wanted to use his original brakes, which makes perfect sense. 

The problem is that the brake cutoff sensors he purchased were from a different company and weren’t compatible with the system he bought. They disconnected the sensor wires, and sure enough, the bike had power to the rear wheel. This may not be your problem, but it is worth checking to see if all the components you bought were meant to go together. You may also want to pull all your sensor connectors apart and check to make sure none of the connecting prongs/pins are bent or didn’t make it into the necessary hole it was meant for.